Tag Archives: 1999

Episode Recap: The Son of Ghoul Show “Mr. Wise Guy” (March 6, 1999)

With Son of Ghoul’s big 31st anniversary show this weekend, and indeed, his actual 31st anniversary today right now yo, what say we take a look back at a vintage episode? I always like doing these. (My wi-fi currently hates me and wants me dead, so if I blaze through this, particularly in the second-half, that’s why.)

31 years is unbelievable for any television personality, but especially so when it’s the endangered-species known as “horror host.” Ironically, 31 almost seems a little, I don’t know, anti-climatic, I guess, after the massive hype that surrounded his big 30th last year. I certainly covered it, and was even present when SOG was fittingly honored at Monsterfestmania.

I thought of a couple different topics to post in honor of his 31st continuous year on Northeast Ohio television. I could’ve covered the earliest episode I taped (The Vampire Bat, in 1997), or his 12th anniversary show, or even the episode featuring the first piece of mail I ever sent in to him. I even briefly considered an article detailing a lot of the SOG memorabilia I’ve amassed over the years. I decided against each one of those, however, for a variety of reasons: I’ll save my earliest taped episode for the 20th anniversary of the broadcast this fall, I didn’t feel like covering Frankenstein’s Daughter during his 12th anniversary, and I’m not ready to detail my cringe worthy (yet nostalgic) first letter to him. As for an article focused on SOG memorabilia, I just couldn’t muster up the moxy to drag all that stuff out for a picture-taking session.

Nope, I decided on our subject today for one very simple reason: I just plain like the movie, 1942’s Mr. Wise Guy. Heck, I just plain like the episode in general, and to me that speaks more about my Son of Ghoul fandom than any ‘special’ occurrence I could dig up. After all, this was how the show usually was (is) to me each weekend: A fun, kick-back-and-chill movie showcase.

So, join me now as I detail The Son of Ghoul Show, as aired on WAOH TV-29 in Akron and WAX TV-35 in Cleveland (“The Cat”) and taped by yours truly waaaay back on March 6, 1999…

(Also, I’ve been on a real kick for The Cat lately, even more so than usual. This comes from that late-90s sweet-spot of the channel, so I’m happy with the choice. And, if that kick keeps up, I may dig something else out from the station to cover. You keep pushing me and I just might, pal.)

I vividly recall this being a surprise episode. Y’see, SOG was on twice-a-week at that point: 8-10 PM, Fridays and Saturdays, same episode. This was handy, because you could sample on Friday, and tape-as-needed on Saturday. But, for whatever reason, he was only on Saturday that week, a fact he briefly mentions in his intro (above).

I think (think) he was preempted totally the night before due to some women’s college basketball tournament The Cat was broadcasting/simulcasting/whatevercasting. So because he was only on Saturday that week, I couldn’t risk missing a must-have episode, especially with no knowledge of what the movie would be. Because said basketball tournament was concluding that Saturday, there was no telling when SOG’s show would actually begin; I had to start the VCR recording waaaaay ahead of time, which was why I wound up with like an hour of that stupid basketball game on the tape before the episode started.

This obsessiveness proved fortuitous. That night, we were at my aunt’s house for some party I was quite probably miserable at, and I flipped to The Cat to see what episode I was capturing. When it finally started and Mr. Wise Guy was revealed, I was pleased as punch. SOG had ran this film, I don’t know, a year or so prior, and I had regretted not capturing it then. I actually liked the movie!

And I wasn’t the only one; SOG himself mentions that he likes it as well during his intro. How often did (does) that happen?!

The reason I initially liked this film so much largely had to do with what it represented: A trip back to a more innocent time in cinema. This is pure, early-1940s matinee entertainment. It’s an East Side Kids (you know, the Bowery Boys, except not) film, so there’s some light hooliganism about, but even with that, an escaped convict, a murder, a death-row sentence, and a real-life war going on, it’s all so light and breezy that it never seems too heavy. I’m hesitant to ascribe the term “innocence” to a film that contains all that, but like I said, this is matinee entertainment; it’s not exactly a weighty, socially-conscious drama.

The idea of an East Side Kids film showing up on a horror hosted program may seem odd, but as SOG states during his intro, Ghoulardi himself used to run these (and fittingly, on Saturdays!). If these were good enough for Ghoulardi, they should be good enough for any other host, too. And somehow, to me they seem to ‘fit’ just fine. Maybe that’s because I grew up with SOG showing them occasionally (still does, in fact), but looked at objectively, they still work. It’s not like a b-western, which unless it shared some horror influence or other odd quirk (Terror of Tiny Town, anyone?), just wouldn’t seem to fit. Look, I can’t really adequately explain why it works so well, it just does.

And, in a trend that continues to this day, SOG doesn’t tamper with these kinds of films; no drop-ins, no sound effects. Just the movie straight. Evidently he has some real appreciation for these flicks, and we’re all the better for it. Even when missing those elements so well-known to SOG fans, it flows perfectly.

The title of the film comes from a moniker given to (and approved by) Leo Gorcey’s character “Muggs” McGinnis (first name: Ethelbert), who is deemed so several times throughout the picture.

The simple synopsis of the plot: The East Side Kids are sent to reform school. There’s a bit more to it than that, though. Unjustly accused of stealing a truck (a truck that, unbeknownst to them, houses an escaped convict), they’re sent to a reformatory run by a kind warden, a cruel guard, and a couple of troublesome inmates that are secretly in cahoots with aforementioned cruel guard. Also on the docket: Bill Collins, older brother of cast member Bobby Jordan’s Danny Collins, is accused of murder and sentenced to death row. Eventually these plotlines unbelievably though perhaps predictably, collide. And since this is from 1942, it all ends on a relatively happy note. ‘Cept for the dude who died, anyway.

Needless to say, much of this is played for laughs. Even while incarcerated, Gorcey’s gang never seems too concerned with their situation. Even as Danny frets over his brother’s predicament back in the real world, the other guys just sort of blow it off – which admittedly does play out a little strange. I can’t imagine that being realistic even back in ’42.

Still, as a whole, the movie is entertaining. Indeed, I wasn’t sure if I’d still get a kick out of it when I sat down to convert my VHS to DVD for this review, but it greatly held my attention throughout. I was even genuinely amused by certain moments, which can’t always be said of semi-comedies of this vintage.

Look, the movie is in the public domain, so don’t just take my word for it; check it out for yourself. Since SOG didn’t add any sound effects, you’ll see it (almost) as it aired here!

(Fun Fact: Some years ago at a thrift store, I stumbled upon a 3-VHS boxset of East Side Kids films. Included were both of their Bela Lugosi collaborations, Spooks Run Wild and Ghosts on the Loose, as well as the title that really spurred the eventual purchase: Mr. Wise Guy. I never watched any of them, don’t think I even played any of the tapes, and subsequently the set became buried in my mound of crap videos. It should still be around here, somewhere, which is good, because unknown to me at the time was that the company who put it out, Passport Productions, was spawned from the ashes of Amvest Video, who we’ve seen here before. Cool winnins!)

Unfortunately, the movie isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t have much to do with plot, but rather stereotypes that were prevalent at the time. Ernest Morrison, often known as “Sunshine Sammy,” is the victim of some unfortunate racial jokes, as his character “Scruno” is the outlet for some now-wildly-inappropriate stereotyping. Look, I don’t claim to be a super-PC-advocate, but man, even I was uncomfortable with some of the gags at his expense.

That said, I am an advocate of not editing things of this nature to reflect current social attitudes. Yes, some of the jokes have aged terribly, but they reflect the time in which the film was made; you can’t rewrite history, only learn from it. And besides, the jokes are incredibly dated, but never really mean-spirited, if that counts for anything.

And with all that said, we now come to the rest of the show…

The first skit proper is actually an old bit from the WOAC TV-67 days, and I love it because it perfectly sums up SOG’s sense of humor, which very often syncs up with mine.

In a parody of the whole “carrying the Olympic torch” thing, here SOG dutifully marches with a plunger triumphantly raised, only to enter the studio bathroom and begin plunging! That’s all there is to it, and it’s great!

Truth be told, SOG doesn’t feature heavily heavily into this episode. I mean, he does, he shows up after each commercial-break, but it’s not new bit after new bit after new bit. His hosting duties, while prominent, maybe aren’t quite as prominent as they usually were, and I think that has much to do with this spot right here.

In a segment that takes up a healthy chunk of running time, SOG and guest Carl Thompson speak extensively on the Frightvision convention, coming later that month. Yes, Frightivision, the SOG-hosted horror convention; we’ve talked about it before! Here, SOG and Thompson thoroughly go over the list of guests and events coming to the show, and it goes on for around 8 minutes, which is pretty much a lifetime in horror-show-time.

That’s not a complaint on my part, though; I could not be happier this segment is present! I talked more extensively on the convention in the piece I just linked to (another SOG episode, Plan 9 From Outer Space, which aired later that same month), but Frightvision was a BIG deal. It was also my very first horror convention of any kind. Long story short: I positively loved it. I got to meet Ben “Gill Man” Chapman, Mark “Lost in Space Guy” Goddard, SOG’s own Fidge (who was great), saw Tom Savini (but didn’t meet him until the following year), and came home with some very cool loot (including a vintage SOG TV-67 promo card, which I still have to this day). All of the fanaticism that manifests itself in me for each and every Ghoulardifest began at the very first Frightvision, and for that I hold the fondest of memories.

So yes, seeing the segment that so aptly demonstrates the swirling hype surrounding Frightvision in the weeks leading up to it, that’s the sort of thing that can take me directly back in time. And movie aside, to me this is the defining moment of this particular episode.

An email segment. More (!) information on Frightvision is presented, and a spider glove that apparently belonged to Fidge is shown. Unless y’all want me to go email by email, there’s not much more I can say about it.

I would love to show the old school, wildly obsolete SOG email address, back when having an email address was still semi-innovative, but in the interest of avoiding confusion, I’ll refrain.

In the second mail segment, the reading of letters devolves into a long, drawn out explosion of fake fart noises, which has SOG and his crew dying with laughter. SOG: “Can you tell we’re so easily amused here?” Like the toilet torch earlier in the show, it’s a juvenile, and therefore riotous, moment. This is the stuff that helped cement my sense of humor, gang. You want someone to blame? Blame SOG.

Because my wi-fi is in a seemingly-perpetual state of precariousness, there were two other bits amidst all this insanity that I’m choosing to skip. One, a “Captain Kanga-Ghoul,” and the other, an on-location interview at a liquor store that happened to be one of Frightvision’s sponsors, were fun, sorta-filler bits, but frankly, I don’t have all that much to say about them. Also, I’d like to punch my wi-fi in the face.

Also, here is the point where I’d usually look at interesting (or so I think) commercials that aired during an original broadcast. I’m going to skip that feature this time around. Why? Because basically all of the ones I would have chosen were already covered in that previously-linked Plan 9 From Outer Space SOG episode recap. And the other, a goofy homegrown promo for a showing of Reefer Madness, was briefly looked at in the The Cat article I linked to way at the start of this post. I love it when I do my own work for me!

It all works out though, because I can end this article in accordance with the way this show itself ends: As the outro opens, SOG is seen jokingly patting his phony beard back into place, along with a “We’re not done yet!”

But, it’s what he says right after that that sums up not only the conclusion to this particular episode, but also the continuing 31 year odyssey his show has been on: “They say you’re not done till the show’s over! Or until you’re out of toilet paper; then you’re done!” I think I can speak on the behalf of SOG’s many fans when I say I hope SOG never runs out of toilet paper.

Boy, that sounded so much more philosophical in my head.

Happy 31st anniversary, Son of Ghoul!

(PS – I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to my legendary, groundbreaking, earth-shattering, trendsetting interview with the man himself!)

(PPS – They may not have been able to repeat this year, but man, I still love the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’ll stick with you guys win or lose! Just thought I should mention that somewhere, since the loss is naturally still on the mind of so many Northeast Ohioans right now.)

WAOH TV-29 & WAX TV-35 – Son Of Ghoul’s Airing Of 1959’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (March 19, 1999)

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From March 19, 1999, here is The Son Of Ghoul Show that introduced me to Ed Wood’s magnum opus (ha!), Plan 9 From Outer Space. Cool winnins! Even better, when it comes to recordings from 29/35 The Cat, this is like the perfect storm of material. A show I love, a terrible movie I love, great local commercials, and a huge dose of nostalgia, which in turn all adds up to an even greater dose of nostalgia, one so great that it continually threatens to make my gol’derned face explode. People, this, this is what a Northeast Ohio horror hosted weekend evening looked like back in the late-1990s.

(I’m going with a Friday, March 19, 1999 date, but back then Son Of Ghoul was on Fridays and Saturdays, 8-10 PM, same episode both nights. It can just as easily have been March 20. I’ve got a pretty good memory, but I no longer recall which night I recorded this. I usually previewed the show Friday and, if need be, taped it Saturday. But this time around, I know for sure there was something exciting I attended that particular Saturday, which you’ll learn about soon enough.)

Settle in gang, this is gonna be a pretty long post…

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(I don’t feel like attempting an ostensibly clever transition, so let me remind y’all that I interviewed the man himself, Keven “Son Of Ghoul” Scarpino. It was and is an earth-shaking, precedent-setting interview that has made many a person cry tears of pure, unadulterated joy. Myself included? Just go read it. After this, I mean.)

Obviously, I taped this one personally myself back in the day. I taped a lot of Son Of Ghoul (still do, in fact), but this particular episode is way, way near the top of my favorites. Not only because it introduced me to this awful, awful movie, but also because it ties directly into an event I took part in and is the basis for some very fond memories of mine.

No kidding, you all know by now that I have a ton of tapes. I keep most of my horror host stuff in the same general spot, but recordings I am particularly fond of are kept in a kind of special “da best” section. This tape is absolutely in that section, and in all honesty, it has less to do with the movie at large and more to do with the circumstances surrounding the episode overall.

That said, Son Of Ghoul hosting Plan 9 From Outer Space is, as far as I’m concerned, a shining example of just why I love this sort of thing so much, and even without that personal connection, this would be a total winner.

We’ll get to all of the particulars in due time, but for now, let us look at the movie…

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Like I said in that first post (forgive if I repeat myself some between that one and this one, which I know I will), Plan 9 From Outer Space is widely heralded as the worst film ever made. It’s really not; there are infinitely worse movies out there, at least as far as I’m concerned. The worst film of the 1950s? A case could be made, I suppose. The worst film ever, though? Please meet my friend, The Creeping Terror. That’s a much worse movie on pretty much any level. I’m really just speaking from technical standpoints here, though; Plan 9 (and The Creeping Terror, too) is cheap and ridiculous beyond any and all standards, but nevertheless immensely entertaining. “So bad it’s good” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, and I don’t always agree with it, but in the case of Plan 9, I certainly do. I’ve seen movies that are far, far inferior while still being technically superior. Am I making any sense at all here?

For a movie released in 1959, the whole “worst thing ever” reputation is actually a bit more recent. It wasn’t really known as such until 1980, when Harry & Michael Medved’s book The Golden Turkey Awards deemed it so. I don’t own nor have I ever read the book, but they apparently came to this conclusion based on votes sent in to them, and it’s a title that has stuck with the film ever since. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though; it brought a level of popularity to the movie that it wouldn’t have enjoyed otherwise, even if people are really only tuning in to see if it lives up (or down) to the reputation. And beyond the movie itself, it helped usher in a newfound wave of interest, albeit posthumous, in the guy responsible for the movie, Ed Wood…

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I actually find myself pretty fascinated by Ed Wood. Not fascinated enough to go see the Tim Burton biopic, but if I came across a good book on him, I’d snap it up right quick. As it stands, Wikipedia is my guide to all things Ed. He had a very weird, up-and-down life and career, which I guess is why so many people have taken such an enormous interest in him.

For a guy that made almost universally terrible movies, I can’t help but respect him. Despite the budgetary limitations and awful writing/producing/directing/etc., you can still see the very real love he had for movie making shine through. I dig that, much more so than the winking, self-awareness of many ostensibly “bad” movies today. I give more credit to an ‘honest’ bad movie than one purposely trying to be awful.

Also, because each and every synopsis regarding Wood has to include this fact, whether it’s pertinent to the actual subject at hand or not, here’s the obligatory “he was a cross dresser” statement. Has nothing to do with Plan 9, really, but I’d like to stave off the inevitable “Hey, you forgot…” comments. Those irritate me.

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The plot of Plan 9 From Outer Space is almost secondary to all of the wacky crap that surrounds it otherwise, which is really saying something. It’s best described as The Day The Earth Stood Still gone nutbar. That’s to say, there’s some aliens warning mankind that we’re the ones that are gonna end up blowing the whole joint to bits, and that’s when the movie goes completely off the rails. The aliens’ plan to make Earth listen to them? Reanimating our dead and letting them cause a ruckus.

I just had a thought: what if this was the reason the dead were returning to life in Night Of The Living Dead, and not the radioactive fallout as speculated? I just blew my own mind.

Plan 9 From Outer Space is characterized by mega-cheap (some would say “nonexistent”) special effects, including the iconic saucer in the screencap above, but geez oh man, everything else about the movie is just insane, too. “Absurd” is really the most apt term for it. The plot is ‘out there’ and the dialogue is, well, throwing a bowl of alphabet soup at the wall and seeing what sticks would probably produce comparable results.

In other words, if you haven’t seen it, you really ought to. It’s apparently public domain, so have at it! It’s a film that really does need to be seen to be believed.

I’d say it’d be hard for something this bad to be released today, but then I remembered all the smack people are talking about The Fantastic Four reboot. I haven’t seen it, but I’d probably still enjoy Plan 9 more.

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When a movie starts off with Criswell, you know you’re in for some kind of ride. Criswell was a self-proclaimed psychic, one that ended up having a, well, wide range of rather kooky predictions. In other words, he wasn’t all that accurate, unless a ray from space really did turn all metal to rubber and I just wasn’t paying attention.

Lucky for us, he hooked up with Ed Wood, and his appearance in Plan 9 is more than enough to label him a hero to all.

Criswell provides the intro and outro to the movie, as well as narration throughout, but it’s his opening scene that is the true stuff of legend. Not only does he start off speaking of future events before inexplicably deciding all of this happened in the past, but he constantly refers to the viewer as “my friends,” and I do mean over and over. I’d guess this wasn’t in the script, but then, it is an Ed Wood movie, so maybe it was.

Apparently these “future events” are all based on secret, sworn testimony. I could point out that the events in this film wouldn’t be “secret” for very long had they actually happened, but what’s the point? Don’t question it, just revel in it.

Criswell’s opening monologue instantly makes sure no viewer is possibly going to be able to take what’s about to follow seriously. It’s so bad that it’s almost brilliant in its stupidity. Almost.

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Swedish wrestler-turned-actor Tor Johnson is also here in all his glory. As per his usual M.O., he plays a big lumbering guy, though for once, one not named “Lobo.”

You gotta hand it to Tor, he managed to star in not one but several candidates for “worst movie ever.” In fact, for anyone claiming Plan 9 is the worst ever, go watch Tor in The Beast Of Yucca Flats; that’s not even a “so bad it’s good” film, it’s just plain BAD. Just like pretty much everything Coleman Francis put his hand to, it’s a vile, depressing mess of a movie. Gimme The Creeping Terror any day.

Apparently in real life, Tor was a ridiculously nice guy, and hey, people are still talking about him today, so I guess he did alright in the long run.

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Bela Lugosi! As far as I’m concerned, pretty much anything with Bela Lugosi in it is worth watching. It helps if the movie is actually good, but even when it’s not, Bela is still Bela. In his later years, Lugosi became friends with Ed Wood, and wound up in 1955’s Bride Of The Monster as well as, obviously, this one. (In my opinion, Bride is certainly bad, but not nearly as fun as Plan 9.)

Actually, Bela died well before Plan 9 was released, and he only filmed a few bits, ostensibly for an entirely a different movie. Needless to say, Wood wanted to capitalize on both the draw of Lugosi’s name as well as give him one last film to his credit, so he shoehorned him in as best he could. It counts as a Bela movie, but just barely; Lugosi himself really isn’t in the movie all that much.

So, what do you do when your star isn’t available for additional scenes because he’s dead? In one of the most famous pieces of Plan 9 folklore, a taller, blonder guy who is obviously NOT Lugosi walks around holding his cape over his face, which fooled approximately no one.

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Vampira!

That’s right, the person widely considered to be the first horror host is in Plan 9 From Outer Space! Now that’s cool! There seems to be some debate as to whether Maila “Vampira” Nurmi was the very first horror host, but there’s no doubt that she was the first to make horror hosting a real and viable thing. To see her in anything, never mind one of the most iconic (for better or worse) movies ever, it’s a real treat, especially since actual footage of the Vampira character is severely lacking. In Plan 9, she not only plays a reanimated corpse, but one that was Lugosi’s wife prior to death!

So, we’re watching the woman responsible for popularizing horror hosting, in a movie that made up many a night on horror hosted programs, whilst on a horror hosted program that she was indirectly responsible for? How cool is that?! I think I just made my head swim, by the way.

And on that front, it’s time to look at some of our horror host segments…

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Prior to the opening theme, the show opens with this: Son Of Ghoul’s take on Mystery Science Theater 3000! Echoing the sentiments of many, SOG can’t stand them talking over the movie while he’s trying to watch, and after repeated warnings to quiet down, he finally gets them to stop the only way he can: with a baseball bat! Look, I’m a huge, huge MST3K fan, and while this bit is technically anti-MST, I did get a laugh out of it. This sorta-meeting of two of my favorite shows is a trip!

‘Course, I’m a bit biased, because I’m reasonably sure that I’m originally responsible for this skit being filmed. Lemme explain: I began watching SOG in 1997, and met him in person at JC Comics & Cards (FORESHADOWING) not long after. Not long after that, I wrote the show for the very first time. Being 11 years old and fairly ignorant of what was national and what as local, I asked him if there was any competition between his show and MST3K. After questioning my sanity, SOG answered with the above bit, which was, needless to say, repeated for this 1999 episode.

As far as I am aware, the skit was initially filmed in response to my stupid letter. Unless it wasn’t and it just made for an appropriate answer that time. I don’t know. Still neat either way.

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Son Of Ghoul’s intro to the movie is loaded with info on the film, much more so than usual. Even SOG states he’s a “cavalcade of information!” He makes specific mention of the guy impersonating Bela Lugosi, his imitation of which is the image above.

SOG also talks extensively about an event that was happening right at that very moment, not only during this intro but all throughout the show, during the respective mail segments and whatnot. I’ll get to that in full momentarily, though.

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Lotsa clowning during the movie too, thanks to those visual drop-ins that Ghoulardi made popular so many years before. On the left: SOG sweeps Bela’s walk, which he describes as “filthy.” On the right, SOG imbibes in a beverage of some sort, apropos of nothing in particular but funny nevertheless.

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More goofing on fake Bela Lugosi!

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I’m not sure my brain can process the coolness of Son Of Ghoul and Vampira in the same scene. I don’t care if SOG is just superimposed over the scene, it’s awesome.

In this short bit, SOG pops in to ask Vampira for a date. A rather, erm, “gaseous” sound effect provides her answer!

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The Barfaby Show, SOG’s long-running parody of Northeast Ohio’s iconic children show host Barnaby. These are always crowd-pleasers, in which Barfaby torments, either accidentally or, more usually, purposely, his pet invisible vulture “Longdog.” SOG still plays these skits quite often, but the one featured in this episode I actually can’t recall seeing in a long, long time. By the looks of it, it’s one of the earlier installments.

In this one, Longdog asks Barfaby why his mouth always moves when Longdog speaks (SOG provided the voice for the bird too, y’see). Barfaby tells him he doesn’t know why, but he’ll rectify the situation, by means of which you’re seeing in the right screencap above. It’s a skit that’s pretty emblematic of the often twisted humor of the show, and make no mistake, I was cracking up during it.

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Fatman & Rotten are some of my favorite skits on the show. Obviously, it’s a parody of, well, you know what it’s a parody of. Just like Barfaby, older installments are played quite frequently nowadays, though also just like the Barfaby, the skit in this episode is one I can’t recall seeing in a looong time.

Which is too bad, because this is a very funny entry. Rotten has gotten him and Fatman captured because, as he explains, he thought the bad guys would just turn themselves in when he rationally explained to them that they were “being bad.” Fatman is not amused. He’s even less amused when Rotten thinks this is good for them to spend time together; Rotten’s suggestion of having a sing-a-long goes unanswered. Fatman is then even less amused when evidence of Rotten’s previously-eaten Mexican meal is made apparent. Annnnd that’s how it ends, Fatman in agony as Rotten cuts loose. Funny stuff!


 

Okay, so, we’ve seen the movie, and we’ve seen some of the SOG host segments. But what about that whole “extra nostalgia” thing I was babbling about at the start of the post?

Behold!

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Oh yes, this episode aired the weekend of Frightvision! This was the first of several Frightvision shows, and it was hyped endlessly. Indeed, these Frightvision clips are actually from a commercial for the event, one that aired incessantly during this broadcast. So much so, in fact, that it practically is a part of the episode, which I’m sure it was meant to be.

There were/are episodes of The Son Of Ghoul Show that could be rerun anytime, albeit sometimes with some slight editing. But, there were also episodes that were very time frame specific, and this is one of those. SOG talks extensively about Frightvision in every host segment. Friday, March 19 was kind of a pre-convention deal; it was part of the whole weekend, but then again, not quite. Apparently, a banquet with all of the guests of Frightvision was held at Quaker Square before everything kicked off in full the next day. SOG talks a lot about that, too. March 20 & 21 were the real days of the convention, and I absolutely attended on the 20th.

Indeed, this was my very first horror/sci-fi/TV convention! I wound up going to the next two Frightvision shows before I fell away from it (Frightvision would end altogether a few years later). This first was always the most memorable to me, though. At least until I became addicted to Ghoulardifest some years in the future, anyway.

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Having never been to one of these before, I wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer amount of memorabilia that was present. The place was loaded! Being a video collector even then, the VHS tapes were what attracted me more than anything. And geez of man, there were VHS tapes for (figurative) miles! This being a convention, and me not having any real of money of my own, the number I could bring home was limited, but I did come away with the original 1925 The Lost World and a copy of the original 1954 Japanese version of Godzilla (which was unavailable officially in the U.S. at the time).

Also, I’m pretty it was at this show that Son Of Ghoul had a table set up with old WOAC TV-67-era promotional photos, for, if I recall correctly, $3 apiece. A sign on the table stated “When they’re gone, they’re gone!” which only further fired me up for one. I bought what appeared to be the oldest-style photo (it was also the last of that kind there), though a stack of newer 67 pictures remained; I kinda wish I would’ve gotten one of those as well.

Nevertheless, while I didn’t have a big haul, it was, as far as I was (and am) concerned, a great one.

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And the celebrities! Even at that young age (I wasn’t even 13 years old yet!), I knew of a lot of these people. Having grown up with Swamp Thing in movie and TV form, Dick Durock seemed like he would’ve been a sure bet to meet. I didn’t, which I now regret (especially since he passed away several years ago).

I did however meet Mark Goddard from Lost In Space, who was ridiculously nice. Tom Savini was also there, though I wound up meeting him the next year (unlike most of the celebrities that charged for their autographs, I don’t recall Savini charging to sign my VHS of Dawn Of The Dead, though I could be wrong).

I believe ’99 was also the year I met longtime Son Of Ghoul sidekick Ron “Fidge” Huffman and got his autograph. Very nice guy that truly loved his fans! RIP, Fidge.

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Maybe the most memorable (for me) of the celebrities I met at Frightvision ’99 was Ben Chapman, who played The Gill Man in all of the out-of-water scenes in the original Creature From The Black Lagoon. And no kidding, this guy lived for his fans. He loved to tell behind-the-scenes stories about Creature, and couldn’t have been friendlier while doing so. Ben Chapman was just great, and I am proud to have met him. I was sincerely sorry to hear of his passing in 2008. Such a cool guy.

Looking back, Frightvision was one of my more memorable convention experiences, probably because it was all so ‘new’ to me. I’m sort of used to the whole deal now, but back then, it was like an entirely different world opened up to me. Suddenly, I could meet many of these Hollywood celebrities in person, I could find a lot of movies that just weren’t going to pop up on Best Buy’s shelves, and I could have a blast doing all of it. The following two Frightvision shows were also fun, but in retrospect, they couldn’t live up to that first one. In fact, the only one that has lived up is the aforementioned Ghoulardifest, though without that same initial sense of “whoa!”


 

After my last look at local horror host material and the severe lack of any commercials interesting enough to spotlight, I initially intended on skipping that feature for this post, as well; after Son Of Ghoul, Plan 9, and Frightvision, is anything else even really necessary? This was my plan of action, until I actually dug the tape out and watched/converted it, that is. I should’ve known better; WAOH/WAX always ran quirky, inventive and very, very local commercials. That’s to say, right up my alley. Luckily, this recording was particularly strong in that area. No kidding, I wound up with so many to spotlight here that I had to cut some out, since this article is already pushing the boundaries of even the most patient of readers as it is.

Son Of Ghoul “Japanese Movie Dub” Promo

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One of the more-famous SOG promos of the time was found right at the start of the tape, almost two minutes before the episode itself started. 29/35 played this one a lot. It’s a short scene from Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster, partially dubbed with the characters on-screen talking about Son Of Ghoul’s time slot and that “he’s too cheap to film a commercial!” I’ve collected a lot of SOG promos over the years, mostly ones from my own tapes, and this one ranks near the top, if only because of its ubiquity on the channel.

 

DMG Cell Phones & Pagers Ad

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It may be hard for some to remember, but cell phones, while definitely existing in the late-1990s, weren’t quite what we know as cell phones today. Back then, they didn’t text, they didn’t get on the internet, and they were the size of bricks. Would you believe it, people had to be satisfied with simply being able to send and receive calls?! Whoda thunk it?! Also, there was a thing called “pagers,” which cell phones later made obsolete. Look ’em up, kids.

Back in ’99 though, this was all still state-of-the-art stuff, and DMG had it all. The commercial uses a technique of rapid-fire zooming in/zooming out, so it’s hard to get a satisfactory screencap of their wares. Anyway, there were two shops, one in Kent, one on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls. As near as I can tell, they aren’t open anywhere anymore (if you are, someone speak up in the comments! I’d never begrudge y’all a free plug!).

 

Whole Shop Inc. Ad

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Whole Shop Inc. has gotten mentions on this blog before, namely in this old Christmas-post. I had to include this commercial here for a few reasons: first of all, I’ve been there before, and I find the subject of cutting metal and whatnot with super high-pressured water endlessly cool. This ad is straight-to-the-point, mentioning all of the things Whole Shop does.

Whole Shop Inc. is still around, so go patronize them.

 

The Pizza Factory In Kent, OH Ad

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Employing a filming technique similar to the DMG ad, it was tough for your pal me to get representative screencaps for this one. Anyway, The Pizza Factory was a then-new pizza establishment in Kent, Ohio. There’s really not a whole lot I can say about it beyond that, except I have a soft-spot for local pizza commercials.

Google searches turn up a lot of similarly-named places, so, also just like DMG, I’m not sure if this Pizza Factory is still open or not. Again, if you guys are out there, speak up in the comments!

 

WNIR “Morning Stooges” Ad

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WAOH 29/WAX 35 was and is heavily affiliated with WNIR 100 FM, so advertising for the radio station was very plentiful for years. In this one, the morning show guys (one of whom is Steve French, and I’m sorry fellas, I don’t know the other two, simply because I’ve never much listened to talk radio) expound on the revitalization of Akron, with the exception of one eye-sore…

(Check out WNIR here!)

 

29/35 – The Beverly Hillbillies Promo

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29/35 ran a lot of original programming, but like any good indie station, there was also the classic sitcom reruns. The public domain episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies are standard issue for this sort of thing, so it’d be more surprising if 29/35 didn’t run the show.

The promo consists of clips of Granny talking about the various hillbilly-approved foods she prepares, which are, needless to say, not very appetizing to most. The idea behind the ad is that viewers could join The Beverly Hillbillies for lunch at noon and then again for dinner at 7:30 PM!

 

Cool Gear Ad

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The concept of “man caves” existed back in the 1990s (and well before, of course), though I don’t think they were known as such yet. Or maybe they were, I’m no expert on man caves. Anyway, Cool Gear was a store catering to that sort of thing. That is, sports memorabilia, beer paraphernalia, and things of that nature, it was all there for the purchasing at Cool Gear.

(It appears Cool Gear is no longer around.)

 

29/35 – Dobie Gillis Promo

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Dobie Gillis, believe it or not, was pretty heavily promoted on 29/35 for years. I’m not sure if there was a dedicated segment of Dobie fans among the viewing audience, or 29/35 was trying to create one. Either way, it worked on me, because I wound up loving the show, usually catching the 4:00 PM airing every day after school, following the 2:00 PM movie.

There were a number of Dobie promos on the station, though this may have been the most common one: a compilation of clips of Dobie’s father Herbert complaining about Dobie. Really, that’s all it really is, though it makes sense, since that was a large part of the show, at least in the early seasons.

 

JC Comics & Cards “Anime” Ad

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JC Comics & Cards! I love JC Comics & Cards! I’ve been going there since about 1996, and as previously mentioned, met SOG there in ’97. 29/35 didn’t introduce me to the establishment, but I still got a kick out of seeing commercials for the store on the channel!

There were a number of JC commercials on the channel, and in this one, it’s a dubbed scene from some anime, in which two guys in  truck discuss all of the great things to be had at JCs before narrowly avoiding a crash. They ain’t lying, either; to this day there’s a ton of cool stuff at JCs!

(Check out JCs here!)

 


 

What a recording! The Frightvision material, in conjunction with SOG’s constantly talking about the convention during the episode itself, lends this episode of The Son Of Ghoul Show an air of nostalgia for me that few others can. Not only does it bring up memories of my first convention, but the recording as a whole is from what I consider the peak of The Cat’s powers as a crackerjack local independent station (for me, roughly 1997 to mid-1999). Good shows, good commercials, good memories, there’s a reason this is one of favorites.

Seriously, few of my other recordings from the station can so concisely sum up the time period such as this one. And you’ve got Plan 9 From Outer Space! For those watching on Friday night and planning to attend Frightvision Saturday or Sunday, there was no better way to kick off the weekend!

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And remember, as per Criswell’s final line, “God help us, in the future!” Words to live by, man.

(By the way – want your own Son Of Ghoul-hosted Plan 9 From Outer Space? The movie is public domain, and thus, SOG sells a copy of the episode on his website! I can’t promise it’ll be exactly the same as this recording, but I’ve long held that a movie is always better when it’s horror hosted. Check out The Official Son Of Ghoul Website to get yours!)

WAOH TV-29/WAX TV-35’s Annual Halloween Broadcast Of The Original Night Of The Living Dead (1999)

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It’s Halloween! It’s Halloween!!! Happy Halloween everybody!

I love this time of year, and I love this holiday! There are great movies on the air, there’s a great feeling in the air! Baby, I loves it!

Despite my mounds of horror-related crap, I initally had a tough time deciding what exactly to write about for the first Halloween post of my silly little blog. What I first had planned was a no go, for no other reason than I just couldn’t think of much to say. And that was for a 30-second commercial! So, at the proverbial last minute (well, two days ago), I decided to write about the original 1968 Night Of The Living Dead. Because Heaven knows what the internet needs right now is article # 5,637,242 on the movie.

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Seriously, has there ever been a more written about movie than the original Night Of The Living Dead? It’s legendary (not to mention public domain) status has ensured that just about everyone has had their say on the movie by now. BUT, the Night Of The Living Dead I’m talking about isn’t just any old version of the move. No, this is one of The Cat’s (WAOH TV-29 in Akron and WAX TV-35 in Cleveland) annual Halloween airings of the film! This was a staple of the station in the late-90’s, and probably up through the 2000’s, too. Unlike other movies on the network (which were syndicated via America One, content from which WAOH regularly carried), The Cat had it’s own print of the film, and they ran it each and every Halloween as their 8 PM movie.

Of course, there are no station I.D.’s during the movie, and most of the commercials were either ones I’ve talked about before or not interesting enough to talk about now, so I can’t prove this is absolutely a genuine WAOH/WAX airing, but I’m nothing if not honest, so let me assure you that it indeed is. Not that anyone besides me really cares one way or the other, but just thought I’d throw that out there. Also, while I’m reasonably sure this is a 1999 airing, it could also conceivably be a 2000 airing; the commercials were of no help whatsoever in determining the exact year, but again, no one besides me really cares. But, I gotta be straight with you, my loyal reader(s).

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Night Of The Living Dead has been public domain forever (basically since it was released), so local stations running it is nothing out of the ordinary. But, one thing I always loved about The Cat’s annual broadcast of the film was that while it was a reasonably sharp print (although my screenshots, taken from my DVD conversion of a now 14 year old VHS copy that was recorded in SLP mode from a local independent station, may not always accurately reflect that), it was also very dark, dusty, dirty and scratchy. Now, most people would want their Night Of The Living Dead to be as clear and clean as possible. Not me, and I’ll tell you why: in regards to this movie, the more worn-out a print is, the more nightmarish the film becomes. It’s already black & white and claustrophobic, and the dirt and scratches only add to the ‘scary’ vibe the film naturally has, in my opinion. it’s almost like looking through a dirty window and seeing something that you shouldn’t.

Honestly, I feel the same way about the 1922 Nosferatu: clean it up as much as you want, add tints, whatever, but leaving it black & white and worn-out gives the film a nightmarish quality that, I feel, no amount of restoration can replicate. Oh, I understand why these films need to be preserved in the finest quality possible, I’m not arguing that at all. Restore ’em, get ’em out there on DVD and/or Blu-Ray, let the people see the flick the way it was meant to be seen. There was an artistic vision that can and often does become obscured under the grime from years of runs through the projector. So yeah, I’ve got no problem with each new, ostensibly better release of Night Of The Living Dead (or Nosferatu). I’m not even sure what I’m really proposing here. What, the latest Blu-Ray is gonna tout “Old & unrestored! Looks like it was dragged around the parking lot 6 or 7 times!” or some such tagline? Alls I’m sayin’ is that fried old Night Of The Living Dead effects me in a way the cleanest print ever couldn’t. I know that won’t be a popular opinion. In fact, I may be the only one that holds it, but I’m fine with that. Yeah, I’m weird (but isn’t Halloween for weirdos?).

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The Cat’s annual broadcast of Night Of The Living Dead wasn’t what introduced me to the film, though. I think I first saw the annual Halloween airing in 1998, but it was a year earlier that I stumbled upon Son Of Ghoul’s showing of the flick. I had seen neither it nor Son Of Ghoul in any real capacity prior, but I was instantly hooked on both. Not only did I immediately become a SOG fan, but I absolutely loved the movie. Having no experience with the show, it took me a minute to realize they were dropping sound effects and whatnot into the movie, and while I found them funny, they didn’t distract from the film, which I quickly became hooked on.

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Upon that viewing, Night Of The Living Dead struck me in a way few, if any, other horror or sci-fi movies had before. It genuinely scared me. Granted, I was 11 years old, and I wasn’t exactly hiding under the covers; it was a good kind of scared, a chilling “can’t stop watching” movie that left a lasting impression on me. It instantly became a favorite film of mine, and beyond that, introduced me to a whole new world of horror movies. This was something more intense, more genuinely frightening than I had ever experienced before. It was great.

(Just like WAOH/WAX used to do, Son of Ghoul still plays Night Of The Living Dead every year for Halloween, including this past weekend.)

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Let me reiterate that that introduction wasn’t this airing, but it’s close, at least as far as evoking personal memories of that era, when I was constantly discovering new old movies. From Night Of The Living Dead, I checked out the other films in George A. Romero’s “Dead” series (at least as many as had been released at that point), other zombie movies, any new-to-me horror or sci-fi movie I could get, even branching out into Italian and Spanish (and beyond) flicks. For awhile, I would have considered the 1978 sequel Dawn Of The Dead the best and my favorite, but over time, I’ve really reverted back to preferring the original; I’ve grown to appreciate the claustrophobic, increasingly intense atmosphere (it all starts out normal enough, and then all hell proceeds to break loose) and black & white cinematography more and more over the years. Not that Dawn is bad in any way, but Night just appeals to me more nowadays.

I should also note that this original Night Of The Living Dead is really the only ‘brutal’ horror film I still retain love for. Not that it’s really as “extreme” as some modern horror films are, of course (though it’s still a very effective film). After a good part of my teen years, when I had “the more gore, the better!” mentality, I eventually developed an aversion to overtly graphic horror or sci-fi movies; anything that realistically depicts people being murdered and such (especially when it’s just for the hell of it), I really don’t care for. Nowadays, I generally prefer the Universal or poverty row films of the 1930’s & 1940’s, and the cheapies of the 1950’s & 1960’s (and even into the 1970’s). I mean, no one in their right mind would ever take The Creeping Terror seriously. Also, you couldn’t pay me to watch some of the Eurotrash I watched back then, today. Night Of The Living Dead, though, still works for me because, yeah, it’s scary, people die horrible deaths, but there’s an underlying air of, I don’t know, something deeper, I guess? George A. Romero wasn’t just feeding people to zombies for the hell of it, is what I’m saying. Rather than repelling me, Night Of The Living Dead hooks me in the same way it did when I was 11 years old and watching it on Son Of Ghoul.

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For those that haven’t seen it (yeah, all four of you), I suppose now is as good a time as any to give a bit of a synopsis, though it should be clear by now that this isn’t really that kind of film review. Night Of The Living Dead is a 1968 film by George A. Romero, the first of what would eventually become a series of “Living Dead” films (as well as the first of many, many knock-offs). The plot, in a nutshell, involves corpses that suddenly spring back to life with a craving for the flesh of the living. Those bitten by said corpses are then destined to become flesh-eating zombies themselves. The normative way of killing a zombie is by setting it on fire or destroying the brain via shooting, bashing, and so on.

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So, it ends up that seven people become stranded in an isolated farmhouse, a farmhouse becoming increasingly surrounded by more and more zombies. The inital idea is to board up the windows and wait for help, but it eventually comes to be decided that they need to get out and find help themselves. I really don’t want to risk spoiling any of the film, because watching it fresh with no idea what’s coming next is an amazing experience. I will say that the ending, which I don’t dare reveal for those that may not have seen it (again, a number that is quite possibly in the single digits), absolutely knocked me out when I first saw it. I mean, it just blew me away.

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Night Of The Living Dead is just about the easiest film in the world to see. Since it’s public domain, you can find it for free and legal download on the internet, or for those less technologically experienced, it can be found on a huge number of DVDs, VHS tapes, and it’s even on Blu-Ray now. Of course, print quality varies from version to version, and as a rule of thumb, the more you pay, the more namebrand the manufacturer, and the better it’ll look. Not always, but often. At least, that’s how it usually played out back in the VHS days.

Which brings me back to this WAOH/WAX airing from 1999, which this article is ostensibly about. It’s that copy that I recorded way back then that means the most to me. Not because I didn’t have ‘official’ copies (I got a cheapo $4 VHS copy from Best Buy relatively soon after my initial viewing in ’97), but because it really does recall my memories of growing up watching The Cat, when I was almost constantly discovering (and taping!) something new and cool. Nowadays, Night Of The Living Dead may no longer be in my top 10 favorite films ever list, but it’s almost certainly in my top 10 horror films list. All of the countless rip-offs, homages, and whatnot that have been released in the years since, and yet, few (none?) can touch the original; the aforementioned Dawn of The Dead, in my opinion, comes closest.

At any rate, Night Of The Living Dead is one of the definitive Halloween movies, one that should be watched if you haven’t seen it, or watched again if you have. I don’t know if I’ll replicate the ’99 WAOH broadcast that this recording comes from, but I’m happy knowing that I can, even if the channel itself isn’t the same nowadays.

Have a great Halloween, everybody!

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